Day Six - Silver City to Flagstaff, via the Catwalk, Mogollon, & Petrified Forest - Sunday, April 23rd
...breakfast at Diane's, I heartily recommend it (nearly as much as I recommend dinner
there...)! Nicely fed, packed, and ready to go, we head on out of Silver City northwestward on the 180.
The 180 slowly climbs up into the western fringes of the Mogollon mountains, passing though small towns, and lot's
of cattle ranches. Our first stop of the day is a little canyon hiking trail called "The Catwalk,"
A century or so ago, they built a long pipe up this canyon - this exceedingly narrow and vertically faced canyon - to supply water to the mining town of Graham. The canyon is so
narrow that the only "trail" up it for the workers was a walkway built on top of the pipe itself - the "Catwalk."
This became rather famous in the area and decades later, during the 30's, the CCC rebuilt the Catwalk (out of metal this time) as a hiking trail up the canyon.
Parking at the lot, Dee Dee and I headed on up canyon. After a while, it started to get too steep for her (the fact that she had on a long dress that day didn't exactly help) so I went on alone.
The Catwalk itself is a narrow walkway of metal mesh winding its way back and forth, supported by steel I-beams driving into the sheer rock walls. In spots, you can see that it doesn't quite
follow the exact route of the original, for the remains of that Catwalk's supports stare at you from the opposite wall of the narrow canyon.
It makes for a pretty walk.
About an hour later and I'm back at the car and we're both off again. Our next stop is the old mining town of Mogollon
, which the map shows to be about ten miles east of the main highway.
(yes, yet another
old New Mexican mining town - deal with it...)
What the map doesn't
show is that most of those ten miles are composed of a narrow, twisty, rail-less road that winds up into the mountains, then back down into the canyon where the town lies. Your first clue that this isn't going to be the easiest of roads is the sign at the turn-off that warns "No trailers or large motor-homes." The road is theoretically two-way - but I'm just glad that we didn't meet any other cars on the way up or down!
Dee Dee studiously examined whatever the view opposite
the drop-off was.
itself it a tiny village, just this side of a ghost town, perched on both sides of the stream that runs down the canyon (the stream, in fact, basically forms the "front yards" of the buildings on the north side of the canyon - and they all have little bridges over it from their front porches to the road). One of the first things we noticed is that each building seemed to have a tunnel or mine behind it and we went "wow, everyone had their own private mine!" In fact, it turns out, those were basically iceboxes carved into the solid rock walls of the canyon. Filled with ice in winter, they kept stuff in there cold all year long.
Though there also
are a lot of abandoned mineshafts in the area.
We wandered the length of the tiny town for a while, but since it was Easter Sunday, very little was open and soon we were off back up
the narrow road and returning to the 180 and the trip north.
Soon after Mogollon, we climbed up past the tree-line and were soon driving through a pretty thick forest, beautiful vistas all around
, and getting up near ten-thousand feet at the highest point. Then we start dropping into Arizona.
Southwestern forests begin and end very abruptly. As we drop through about six, seven thousand feet, the trees nearly instantly give way to shrubs and grass. As we continue northwards on the 180, the shrubs pretty quickly devolve to grass too. Now we're speeding through a rolling dry-prairie, heading for the 40.
The 180 now curves west and soon it passes the southern entrance to Petrified National Forest
. We really don't have time to visit it this trip (nor the money - National Park entrance fees are getting expensive!
), but we do stop off for a brief bit at the gift shop/museum right by the entrance. They had several chunks of petrified wood there for sale that we would have liked to own - had we a spare few thousand and
something other than a Honda to carry them home in (it gets a little sloggy when you put several hundred pounds in the back...).
The 180 connects up with the 40 at Holbrook and now we're booming west on it, heading for Flagstaff, while I point out little bits of scenery (like the Twin Arrows gas station
) that Dee Dee missed on the way east, being asleep and all. The miles quickly roll by and soon we're entering the city limits of Flagstaff.
As the sun drops behind the mountains we pull off the interstate into Flagstaff and search for a motel. Now, mind you, this isn't what you'd call a difficult
search, for Flagstaff is just full of them, lining old Route 66 from one end of town to the other. We go with an older - but stylish - Best Western east of downtown.
The "Best Western King's House"
obviously didn't start its life as a Best Western. In fact, the motel almost screams
"Route 66 era motel" in large friendly letters. The fact that it sits on
Route 66 only confirms this. Our room proves to be not quite as nice as in Santa Fe, but a big improvement over Silver City.
(if for no other reason than the noise. Now, mind you, it's less than two hundred feet from the railroad tracks and in Flagstaff, you get four, five, six big long trains an hour rumbling - and hooting - by. But at the Comfort Inn, for some reason, people were literally
running up and down the hallway All...Night...Long. Compared to this, train whistles are an improvement. 'Course, I may have found it a more comforting noise to sleep to than Dee Dee - but even she
admitted it was a great deal less annoying)
With a room for the night, we head back out again to get that meal at the "Galaxy Diner" that we missed back on Tuesday morning. This time, it's open and we sit down to a pair of big-ass chiliburgers, fries, lime-cokes (at least in my case) and chocolate shakes for dessert. Yum!
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